The Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees approved a $174.5 million budget for the 2020-2021 school year Wednesday, continuing programs and services that effectively support students, educators and school districts in Harris County.
With this budget, HCDE maintains its business model, which preserves the integrity of its services to school districts. The budget also provides for ongoing support for HCDE employees through competitive compensation and benefits.
“We’ve worked for a fiscally responsible budget we can be proud of which is balanced, focused and appropriate,” HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. said.
Property tax revenue, which amounts to less than $9 for the average Harris County homeowner annually, generates $22.6 million of the overall budget. The rest of the budget is funded by grants, fees, and revenues from HCDE’s business endeavors including its purchasing cooperative, according to Dr. Jesus Amezcua, assistant superintendent of business services.
The HCDE budget, which is adopted yearly in July, is designed to allow the agency to be responsive to the needs of area school districts and the communities it serves.
“We are proud of the budget we are presenting today,” Colbert said. “We believe it meets the needs of our organization while allowing us to continue to find and fill the gaps of educational services in Harris County.”
The budget also accounts for support HCDE provided to districts, families and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.
This spring, board trustees approved up to $250,000 to provide more than 25,000 meals to its Head Start families during the coronavirus lockdowns. “Because we Care” boxes contained non-perishable food items families need. During the second round of distribution, boxes also included books for students as well as personal protection equipment including masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. Head Start staff worked for more than eight weeks to distribute the boxes in three rounds, ensuring those who needed food over several months could take advantage of the program.
“Our primary focus during the pandemic has been being responsive to the needs of our students and their families, our employees and the school districts we serve,” Colbert said.
Earlier this year, HCDE trustees also appropriated $500,000 in funding for the Education Foundation of Harris County to provide grants to area school districts for pandemic-related projects. Approximately 53 proposals from 17 area school districts were submitted to fund items like iPads for students, instructional materials for teachers, student supplies, technology for students and staff, thermometers for health screenings and sanitation stations. Grant awardees will be announced next month.
“HCDE stepped up to the plate to support our ISDs and help them through these unprecedented times,” Colbert said. “Superintendents had to make real-time decisions due to COVID that were not anticipated. These grants will enhance support for area districts’ students and staff.”
Through contracts with area school districts, HCDE provides four special schools for students with emotional and intellectual disabilities and serves troubled youth and students recovering from addictions. Other educational services include school-based therapy for students in area school districts; afterschool services; adult education; and Head Start programs for infants through age 4. The organization also provides services for educators, schools and government entities including professional development, school safety audits, teacher certification, records management and a national purchasing cooperative.